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It’ll Be A Short Day For Some Budget Standoff Translates To Furlough For Fairchild Civilian Workers, Others

The planes will keep flying, the courts will keep sentencing and the mail will go through.

But by noon today, hundreds of federal workers in the Inland Northwest might be taking a long lunch - days long.

Most federal workers are reporting to their jobs this morning for the latest update on the budget battle between President Clinton and Congress.

Some will be affected immediately if the stalemate continues.

About two-thirds of the civilian workers at Fairchild Air Force Base will be sent home by late morning, said Sgt. Sue Conard, a base spokeswoman. Essential services, such as firefighting, computer systems management, child care and nursing, will keep at least some civilian employees working.

All military personnel will stay on the job, and all missions for the KC-135 tankers will proceed as scheduled, Conard said.

Most employees of the U.S. Geological Survey will be furloughed, shutting down data gathering on earth and water studies. The agency’s map office, which sells geologic and water reports as well as maps and aerial photographs, will close.

The Bureau of Land Management will close its offices shortly after they open at 8 a.m., keeping only district managers and rangers as essential personnel. The public won’t have access to land records, but all BLM contracts remain in place.

The Forest Service has money left over from last fiscal year, so the agency will remain open at least through the week. Firewood and Christmas tree permits for federal forests and forest maps will be sold at least that long, said Hosey Horton, a Forest Service spokesman.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will remain open for several days because its budget already was approved. Chris Bieker, a spokeswoman for the Natural Resource Conservation Service, said most department employees will continue to work until the nation reaches its debt limit, which could happen this week or next.

Because the Postal Service will remain open, Spokane residents still can apply for passports at the East Sprague post office. But the applications are sent to a Seattle office, which will be closed.

The federal courts will be open, but many other offices in the U.S. District Court House will be closed.

Shutting down the Bureau of Mines office for a couple of days will complicate efforts to shut it down permanently, said Richard Grabowski, chief of the bureau’s western division.

The employees have 60 days before the agency ceases to exist. They need all that time to collect and find new homes for data gathered over 50 years, Grabowski said, but they probably won’t get any extra time after they return from the furlough.

, DataTimes

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